Saturday, November 21, 2009

WashPo gets it right on Twilight

Well done! This article gets right to the heart of the conflict.

Thoughts this observation was great:
It's a time capsule to the breathless period when the world could literally end depending on whether your lab partner touched your hand, when every conversation was so agonizing and so thrilling (and the border between the two emotions was so thin), and your heart was bigger and more delicate than it is now, and everything was just so much more.

I remember this period in my life so well. Embarrassingly well. I was in love with practically everything and everyone all the time. I really, really, really wanted an object of my affection that I could lavish lavish lavish with lots of love (not just a little love, mind you-- LOTS of love). That's how I was. Anyone else remember feeling that way?

And this one was interesting as well:
Men feel perfectly comfortable slathering their chests in greasepaint and screaming like half-naked ninnies at football games, but women too often over-explain their passions, apologizing for being too girly or liking something too trashy.

The grown women of "Twilight" will no longer apologize. They will go to those midnight "New Moon" screenings.

But as for telling them how silly they're being, how Edward is not real and neither is Jacob, how their brains are rotting and their sense of reality is being distorted and this obsession is crazy, just crazy? There's really no need.

They already know.

This reminds me of the quote about underlying backlash against vampires sparkling. It's so GIRLY, right? And yet, men going shirtless and with their ridiculous chest painting seem to get away with it. I thought it was an interesting point.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pin Congress Down on Facebook!

From MomsRising!

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives approved their health reform bill by a razor-thin margin. Now, opponents of health reform (i.e., highly-paid insurance industry lobbyists) are working to make sure that comprehensive health reform is stopped in the Senate.

It's time to remind Congress (yes, again!) that real people -- their constituents -- will not be pacified until Congress passes a healthcare reform package that does right by women, children, and families. Twenty members of Congress are wearing MomsRising's pacifier lapel pin to show their support for getting health reform right for kids and families. Now, it's your turn!

Show your support for health reform by wearing your very own pacifier pin -- on Facebook!

We Won't Be Pacified Until Our Broken Healthcare System is Fixed!We Won't Be Pacified Until Our Broken Healthcare System is Fixed!

When you click the link above, you can create your very own, custom "I won't be pacified" Facebook photo and status update like the one pictured in this email. Your photo and status update will help mobilize your friends and show members of Congress that you will not be pacified until we get meaningful health reform.

And here's the coolest part... we'll also keep track on a U.S. map where our photo submissions come from so members of Congress can see that their constituents are taking a stand for kids, women, and families in health reform.

If you aren't on Facebook yet and want to take the leap, sign up here:

Show Congress you won't be pacified until we get health reform that is right for kids and families now:

Invite your friends, colleagues and neighbors to get "pinned" on Facebook too by forwarding this email directly to them or inviting them to participate through Facebook using our application's "Invite your friends" tool.

Thanks for all that you do!
-- Ashley, Donna, Katie, Kristin, Anita, Julia, Dionna and the whole MomsRising team

P.S. Click here to see pictures of the Members of Congress who have already worn the MomsRising pacifier pin:

P.P.S. Together, we really are powerful! Thanks to our matching gift campaign donors, last week we broke our all-time fundraising record, raising more than $50,000 for MomsRising's health reform campaign! It's not too late to pitch in!

regretsy on how to be age inappropriate

I've already written about my creeped-out feelings on cougars (as well as men lusting after women 20 years younger, shudder). But a picture works so much better to demonstrate the issue here.

I give you Regretsy's take on age inappropriate behavior-- here demonstrated in by Granny Montana.

Now I am all for celebrating your sexuality and feeling powerful and assertive at any age. Yay! But I think one has to take into account the object of one's desire too, because there are some power dynamics going on there.

Hey while you're at, I totally think you should check out the Cheese Grater Clock. Brilliant.

more thinkers about Twilight

Last night, I was up at midnight, and I couldn't help but think of the crazy scene that had to be developing at the movie theater down the street that is showing "New Moon." I really wanted to go be a part of it, as much to people watch as to see the movie.

[SIDEBAR: A smart friend of mine with a 2 year old says that she goes to late night shows alone, leaving her daughter to sleep as her husband monitors. This. is. BRILLIANT!!! I am totally going to do this! Now that Sabrina is sleeping better, I know I could do a 10 PM show and be back before any real wake ups.]

I wonder who was there... aishatyler tweeted "Just left New Moon. Wasn't one female in there younger than 25. And that is because Jacob is hotter n' yo granny on hot flashes. #teamjacob" Interesting!!!

Anyhoo, I found two more great posts on Twilight that I thought were worth sharing with you smarties:
"What A Girl Wants: Mixed Messages in Twilight" (interesting comments challenging some of the assumptions, too)

"Talking Back to Twilight" (by the same author, Carmen Siering) In this article, I think she makes some good points about Bella being a good Mormon wife. I think Meyer should just say "Yeah, I went back to my Mormon roots for the story here." I think Siering is right on about the movie being better than the book-- I think Catherine Hardwicke's interpretation was smart and I'm sorry she didn't get a chance to continue in the series.

Let me repeat: I kind of like the swoony ridiculous irrational romance portrayed in the books. I do! It's really fun. It's just good to acknowledge that that's what it is, no more no less.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WAIT- making amends...finished Eclipse- the Twilight Express is leaving without me

Ok, this post is mostly a diatribe about what I didn't like about the books. But I found this post with 89+ comments at Twitarded about what women in their 30s DO like about the series. And I have to say I agree with a lot of them. Mostly, they agree that it's not Shakespeare, and not an earth-shattering plot, and not even great characters. They're perfectly aware that there are weaknesses in the story and storytelling, in the characters themselves.

But what they do say (that I respect) is that they like the books because of the books remind them of those powerful feelings they had at 16, 17, 18. Intense emotions that didn't make much sense back then, and still don't, but that are delicious to experience again. I totally get that-- the thrill of first love, the ridiculous obsession that can accompany it, the terrible heartbreak when it is (or seems) over.

Many of these women are in their 30s, many in stable relationships, many with children, many who haven't thought about feeling like that for a very long time. Ripe for a fantasy like this. And I can appreciate hungering for an awakening like that.

So, that said, here's a quick dirty list of what I'm not feeling in the books:

1. I can't get over the writing. I know, we all know, it's not meant to be the Next Great American Novel. But still. The writing style is perfect if you've ever dreamed of reading the Very Private Thoughts of an angsty teenager in love. It reads like a junior high school student's journal that she thought would be kept secret forever, but no, her mom has PUBLISHED it and now it's on the NYT Bestseller list and it COULD NOT be more embarrassing... oh wait, except that it's raking in tons of money.

2. Way too long. These books are 700 pages long, but could be 250 if you skip over every time she says describes glistening hard marble perfect white skin, lips, hair, chest... of course, that's probably what's selling the books.

3. I'm sorry but-- eh, I'm not sorry-- the "TwiMoms" phenomenon creeps me out. It really does. I'm not talking about the people who acknowledge what's wrong with the stories and accept the whole package. I'm talking about those who creep me out lusting after the young actor who plays Edward, who think the stories are the greatest thing ever. Some actually think these books are full of good role models for their children.

WHA--?!! No. That's just a huge NO. I will say that, as in life, there are good and less-good traits of each character, and it's good to talk that through with your kid. But there's are a couple overarching themes here that are really disturbing:

A. First disturbing theme: The male characters are constantly trying NOT TO KILL the girls and women they love. This is a GOOD thing? Hooray, congratulations, you managed not to give in to the worst of yourself-- you're a hero! ??? Ladies, please PLEASE raise your standards. Because that sucks.

I was especially disturbed by the relationship between Sam and Emily. (And I'm not the only one, thankfully: AMEN for a sensible, well-thought out article from the Hartford Courant on this topic.)

Emily has major disfiguration because he turned into a werewolf near her once, presumably because he lost his temper. That really sounds like domestic violence to me. "I hurt you, baby I'm so sorry, I'll never do it again, how can I live with myself every day knowing I did this to you?" I'm not exaggerating-- that's pretty much what the text says. And Emily not only seems to be ok with this, understanding that it's just "the natural order" of things, but continues to be gorgeous, cook of the year for all the boys (but we never get to hear about what SHE eats), and all around Good Wife-- if you like your spouse like you like your doormats.

That is not a family value I hold. I DEFINITELY part ways with people trying to defend that behavior. I wouldn't want that for my daughters or for me, not ever.

B. Second disturbing theme: The women in this book are not the coolest role models I've ever seen. There's been plenty written about that already in other blogs, but I just want to say Amen to everyone who has their eyes open to this. Yes, there are good aspects of Bella, Alice, Esme and others, but I just can't see myself saying I would want to be like them, would want my daughters to be like them, or even to read this to learn something about what NOT to do. I'm just sick of stories where there's no really smart, stylish, fabulous female.

C. Third disturbing theme: Love is all you need... except when it's not. Bella has one sentence where she argues that if he weren't the world's most exquisite man, without piles of money to infinity and back, she would still love him because he's just so darn good. But happily, we don't have to REALLY deal with that, because guess what-- he IS that good looking! He DOES have infinite amounts of money! It totally reminds me of all those Disney princess stories. We still haven't grown up, looks like.

But I will say, I look at my husband and totally think he's as great as Bella's descriptions of her perfect man. It's nice to know he can compete with fantasy fiction. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

reading rainbow

Right now, here's what's on my reading list:

- Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

- In A Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson

- Thank You For Smoking, Christopher Buckley

- Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

- Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer

- Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

- Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron (I got curious after reading a mention of how "Byronic" Twilight's Edward is, which frankly is pretty high-falutin' for those books. But I found this verse particularly apt for the setting of Washington State: "There is a pleasure in the pathless woods/There is a rapture on the lonely shore" (ah, how I miss Lake Quinault)

What am I learning by reading all these at about the same time? One, that an author's voice really is unique. It's incredible to get a sense of how much one's environment, education, family, personal beliefs, culture, and personality can diffuse throughout a story. Writing is such a personal act of art. For that matter, so is reading.

I'm also getting a sense of what I like in books. This may seem obvious, but I'm finding it's a good exercise for someone who is picking up reading again seriously after years of not much more than a book here and there, between feedings and changings and work.

I like facts presented by anecdote, in Gladwell's style. (Though I have to say the hilarious Vanity Fair satire of his writing style was spot on.) I like non-fiction, science, political analysis.

I like romance. Surprise, I know. But I do. Meyer's romance is exactly what I would have written and LOVED to read in high school, which makes it embarrassing to read as an adult. I am hoping to find a romantic book I love (does that sound like a personal ad for a book?). So far, Lord Byron's Childe Harold is slowly winning me, though I don't know I'll fall in love with it or the Romantic era-- but stay tuned, things change fast as I read.

Bill Bryson is just laugh out loud funny, and I love that. He manages to make me picture the scene and place himself squarely in the middle of it, bumbling and humble and hilarious.

And one of these days I'm going to pick up a couple novels in French and Spanish, to brush up. Taking suggestions!

You know, appropriately, the Netflix genres exactly mirror my taste in books: documentary (non-fiction), romantic dramas, comedies, foreign. Huh-- this really helps my queue-making decisions!

And- LEONIDS!! I'm staying up-- or at least, I hope to.

Monday, November 16, 2009

inna pickle inna jam!

I love reading blogs, and especially when they're about delicious things (hence, discovering the deliciousness...). So when my brilliant beautiful friend Kemmeo suggested I become of fan of Inna Pickle Inna Jam on Facebook, I fanned... and then was delighted to click on to IPIJ's blog.

I love her description of urban foraging and its merits, the pictures of her lovely jams and the descriptions of her values that guide her craft. I am so on board to try this.

And heck-- it's reminded me that this might be a lovely gift to handcraft and give people for Christmas this year! I've always wanted to make gifts, and I always *hear* about people making and giving jam, but alas I have never actually received or given a jar. In fact, I've never seen anyone else receive or give a jar. Maybe it's one of those things we talk about but are really just alive in Martha Stewart's head. No more-- I'm totally trying this out!!

I have no excuse not to-- I have no more infants! I've got a young toddler, and older toddler, and a fabulous husband. So- let the jam making commence!

Look at how cute the jars are:

Friday, November 13, 2009

now reading- In A Sunburned Country

I'm longing to find a book I can really sink into, with a delicious story and characters, but it hasn't happened yet. Fortunately, in that quest I did find another Bill Bryson book to love-- In A Sunburned Country.

Bryson takes us through the outback and around Australia, and does it in his usual observant and totally hilarious style. He gets how funny self-deprecating travel humor can be, and he manages to do it without being campy (eg, "And then I fell down during the rain dance while eating this exotic food and the natives laughed and laughed!" If it were like that I'd have to throw it across the room. Then return it to the library.).

WHis hilarious descriptions of boogie boarding with Dangerous Creature is at the opening, and turns out to be the first in a series of animal adventures. But it's not just the fauna that make it interesting-- even traveling over the land has mystery, intrigue, and more humor than I would have expected. We get to ride the train with Bryson, enjoying the vast outback scenery while investigating the true nature of first versus holiday class.

I haven't done much travel/adventure book reading, but Bill Bryson makes a great introduction. Recommended.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twilight the movie-- well, it's better than the book

Yeah, I thought I'd just cut to the chase here. I'm a book lover and almost always fall into the "book is better than the movie" camp. I think most people do because in a book, there's more room for narration, for exposition on character and motivation and scene descriptions, and there's flexibility in how we might interpret a scene. In a movie, there's less of those things.

Mostly, that limits our scope of imagination and I think it's why most people prefer books to movies (well, if they're reading types).

Sometimes, the movie works better than the book. I think that feels like the case if you see the movie before reading the book, or if the movie is actually made before the book (this happened with "Back to the Future"!! The movie with MJF was SOOOO much better).

Very occasionally, the movie is still better than the book even if you read the book first. The experience of the universe the book introduces is actually richer, more subtle, more poignant, more real onscreen than on the page. It's not often for me, but it's happened now.

Yep, I Netflixed and watched Twilight the movie and really enjoyed it. MUCH more than the books.

The movie left out a lot of the repetitive, inane and sexist crap (not all, but most). James Wolcott wisely points out that the movie also shovels away the truckloads upon truckloads of Bella's internal narrative that makes the books such hefty doorstops. And there aren't scenes with Bella making dinner for her father Every Single Night. And the diversity in the movie was notable; I was pretty impressed with the thoughtful casting.

Often high school students are portrayed as pure stereotypes, which is annoying. But I found these characters to be a bit closer to truth-- a little gawkier, a little less perfect than actors playing high school students usually play it. I liked that.

This may seem like a small point, but I wish there was more acknowledgment that the scene with Edward and Bella at the top of the tree is EXACTLY like the shots of Julia Butterfly Hill at the top of Luna. They were talking in the commentary about how the stunt doubles were nearly blown off the tree from backwash off the helicopter, which is something that happened to Hill. Wish they knew about Julia's accomplishment to credit it in the commentary.

I'll also say:
- the glittery skin was not as cheesy in the movie as it sounds in the book
- the baseball scene, which sounded really cheesy in the book, was done pretty well. They had some great, loud, thrashy music in the background that really fit with the XTreme Baseball. (And Robert Pattinson in the commentary properly acknowledges the difficulty in looking tough in an adorable striped baseball jersey and coiffed hair.)
- the talking and cuddling after the one (pretty chaste) kiss was Perfect Teenage Daydream Fodder

All in all, I thought this was a well-done effort that definitely improved on the book, and am sorry Catherine Hardwick isn't doing New Moon, which apparently is much more action oriented. This isn't a Film For The Ages, but it's watchable. Recommended if you're looking to fill some time on a Wednesday evening, and/or if you're into teen movies.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

chocolate review- Michel Cluizel

So, I was getting my haircut at Elizabeth H. in Oakland with the incomparable Tina, stylist extraordinaire. As it happens, Elizabeth H. is right next door to Bittersweet Cafe. And Bittersweet Cafe is hands down the best place to get a chocolate chocolate chip shake to sip while you're getting your hair done at Elizabeth H. (or for most any chocolate fix you might desire). So that's exactly what I did.

But I couldn't walk out of there with a chocolate chocolate chip shake and nothing to take back to the suburbs with me. So I picked up a Charles Chocolates bar for my mother in law, and the Cluizel bar for Derek and me. It's a deep milk chocolate, which I've decided might be the most perfect chocolate for most days (I mean sometimes you have your deep dark midnight 72% cacao days, I know). This one is 47% cacao, which sounds lightweight, but the key is that the bar isn't burdened by too much sugar, so you still get this lovely mellow chocolate flavor.

The back of the box describes it like this: "In the mouth, the characteristic notes of bananas, red berries and blueberries emanate progressively in an herbaceous harmony and then in 'salty caramel.'" I'd mostly agree with that, though I don't get nearly the fruity qualities described as the salty caramel finish, which is just fine by me. I think what they describe as bananas, I would describe as the creaminess of the milk as the vanilla notes rise.

The bite is perfect-- it's like al dente pasta, but chocolate. Not too soft, not too firm.

What you see below is the Michel Cluizel chocolate bar and a very happy salon customer.

Monday, November 09, 2009

separating your Catalist from your VAN

And now for some real palate cleansing...

Here's a great article from Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic, providing a short but useful breakdown of Catalist, the VAN and a hint of what it takes to make campaign organizing *really* work. The more I learn about this stuff, the more I realize what a totally fascinating, endlessly tweakable endeavor it is to get out the vote.

Also, the more I realize how smart it is to learn tools in addition to learning facts. Data is great, but looking at data and knowing how to coax new perspectives and possibilities from it is a thing of beauty.

I know, it's an off year, but I think now is a good time to be brushing up on those crucial details of how to get out the vote. Be prepared, as they say. Check out the article-- very worth it.

Friday, November 06, 2009

POLL- twilight moms- who the hell are they? (ok, we)

No seriously. I want to know who among us calls herself a twilight fan and also is a mom. Why? I'm just curious about our demographic. Me, I'm not sure I'd call myself a Twilight fan, per se... but I'm curious about the phenomenon for sure.

I'm in the middle of reading the series (or "saga" as we say-- so romantic!). I'm not in love with the writing or the characters, but I can definitely see how the IDEA of someone like Edward could grab hold of someone and restart that long-dormant part of your brain that loved daydreaming, and from there, well, it's over.

I'm 32, with two young daughters, happily married to a hot young physics professor. Went to college, law school, working for a nonprofit. I think I'm not the target demographic here, but... who is? That's my poll question. Would love to hear from you, whether you're a fan or just have theories about fans of Twilight. Help satisfy my curiosity- Click the comment button and share!

Lake Quinault, how I miss you

Ok, it's not because of the hot mess that is Twilight fandom surging upon the Olympic Peninsula that I miss Lake Quinault. I promise.

I remember going there, to Lake Quinault Lodge, at Christmas 2003 for a friend's wedding. Winter was a magical time to visit this misty, foggy, snowy rainforest. Somehow when I'm there, all the snow and cold is fun-- it seems like a grand adventure instead of an icy endurance race (like it was in DC-- somehow less magical...). Happily, the friends I was with weren't particularly hardcore about the cold and enjoyed a fireplace and warm drink as much as cold weather hiking.

I've also been there in May, when there's so much deep lush green it's hard to believe it's not a fairy wonderland. There are species of fungus that are just now being discovered-- it's that packed with life.

Driving to Lake Quinault is a treat in itself. If I were in charge of naming a town, would I be so bold as to call it Humptulips? But someone in Washington was, and I love that. (Someone also named a town Forks, but maybe you already knew that...)

The beach that we stopped at was wide, wide, wide. There were people on ATVs rushing up and down the shoreline, and there was so much shoreline that I don't remember hearing them-- just seeing them.

And then turning into the Hoh National Forest, driving into that mysterious beautiful dark place, where the turnoff to Lake Quinault is a brief break in the towering trees. It's incredible, enveloping, clean, dark, lovely. Arriving at the lodge, there's a friendly feeling from the staff -- you're not alone in the wilderness.

And food-- very good. I'm coming from the Bay Area, where being a food lover is as commonplace as breathing. The fresh salmon is such a treat, but don't limit your palate-- the berries and mushrooms are so flavorful. I didn't have a bad meal when I was there, and that includes salmon burgers from the general store across the street.

I just can't wait to go back-- now with my two young daughters. It will be a different experience, but I'm hoping just as fulfilling.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

if you think sparkling skin is cheesy...

I totally agree!!! But then I found myself challenged by a well written analysis of the sparkly-skin thing, and the evolving nature of the vampire myth (and really, all myths).

Oh wait, I'm talking about Twilight again for those who are thinking this is Very Random.

But it does make me re-evaluate why I thought that was such a silly part of the story, that the non-humans (vampires) should *sparkle.* Even that word sounds so DUMB, right? Glitter, sparkle? As the author of the above blog post suggests, maybe that's because those words makes us think of little girls and all the crap that's been marketed to them, and it seems utterly incompatible with what's supposed to be a fantasy-driven, strong, makes-my-bosom-heave male character. In that sense, having Edward sparkle is maybe a little revolutionary.

[sidebar: So, maybe we should own the sparkle!!! Hell, I wore enough of that stuff as a teen. Even in college, I was known to throw it on now and then. I went to an eye appt and the student dr called in his senior supervisor to look at a square in my eye. The dr looked, pushed aside the eye-inspector thing, raised and eyebrow and said, "Wear glitter often?" Busted.]

But let's keep it real, other aspects of that character are right in line with the slightly obsessive romantic tendencies of some seventeen year olds, both male and female. Meyer doesn't save her characters from sexist pitfalls-- Edward makes a lot of decisions for Bella, does a lot of "saving," is confounded when there's an aspect of her he can't know/overpower/control (he can't read her thoughts, though he can everyone else's).

The other point this author makes is that the vampire myth is, in fact, allowed to change and evolve, as all myths do. S/he points out that the original vampire myth didin't have their skin burning in sunlight; that was introduced later, apparently. That's an important reminder-- stories and myths are continually changing. What urban legend stays the same, even when passed around by email? People change details and add embellishments, and that's part of the mechanism of story telling.

The sparkly skin distracted me a lot, and I totally appreciate this analysis of WHY that might be.

Monday, November 02, 2009

phones, fairies, tigers, oh my!

So here are some pics from the last week or so, from Halloween and dinner at a Thai place. The dinner photos are all thanks to Damon English, photographer and physicist extraordinaire.

Paloma wanted to wear her best dress for H'ween, with wings, and will tell you she was a "pink and purple pumpkin princess." Sabrina was a tiger. :)

It was so much fun to see them playing with the phones! (Huge thanks to the generous phone owners.) They loved them. They really knew what to do with them, how to hold them and everything. Paloma has talked on a phone before, but even Sabrina (who just turned one) had her texting thumbs going and everything.